February 16, 2021

How To Build a Social Media Marketing Plan

¾ of Adults use social media. That's why a social media marketing plan is key. It is one of the easiest ways to connect with people. While easy, convincing is hard.

Building Your Social Media Marketing Plan & Strategy

One of my biggest critiques of high-ranking how-to-guides on social media is how "easy" or "simple" they make it sound. I do not think they are intentionally misleading. However, for the sake of brevity, they gloss over some important details. By choosing to omit the details, it can make the process sound easier than it really is.  

Start with the end in mind when developing Social Media Marketing Goals

Set Your Social Media Plan Objective & Goals

To begin to create a social marketing plan, you first need to set an objective. This is what the plan is designed to achieve when it is complete. For example, at ProStrategix, we want a known agency where small businesses can find practical advice to make their marketing efforts more effective.

Social media goals are how you know if you have met your objective. They should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For example, increasing total social impressions by 20% by the end of 2021 is a SMART goal, assuming 20% is achievable. 

This illustrates another great point. SMART goals cannot be given; they must be created. Only the creator of the goal knows if it's achievable.

Illustrates the importance of a target market definition for social media marketingf

Everything Begins with Your Social Media Target Market

In marketing, your target market & target persona are the keys to everything. Therefore, it is so important to make sure that your target is well defined. Otherwise, everything that follows will be less effective than it could be. 

In its most basic essence, a target market is a tribe or a team. Every tribe or team has a shared set of identifiable characteristics. It is what makes this tribe distinct from the rest. Each member of a tribe or team typically acts or reacts to things in the same way. It is a key element of social media marketing strategy. Some go as far as to put in their mission statement.

The target persona is the team's avatar, representing the team. Speaking to them is like speaking to the team in general.

To Create Quality Content, You Need Insights into Your Target Audience

An insight is a glimpse inside the team to see what motivates them and what makes them react. That knowledge can help you create content that will generate results and interaction. Finding accurate insights can be challenging. However, there are a few great places to start.

Mine Your Social Media Data by Platform

This only really works if you have a significant following already.  If you go to any of your social networks, you can navigate to your analytics. 

Each of the major networks has them. They are not very granular, but you can find information on gender, age, and sometimes location. This is how we look:

Example of Social Media Demographics by Social Media Platform

Based on our results, we know our readers' age, genders, and locations on each app. Knowing this, we need to talk to each audience differently. A twitter chat aimed at 20 somethings is not likely to be as effective as it would on Facebook or Instagram.

If you advertise on these sites, you can see which affinity groups are more apt to interact. This is generally the more useful data to help in forming insights. 

Finally, you can see which post gains the most reactions over time to see if any patterns emerge. Since we are a small business digital marketing agency, we found significant clusters around what you would expect, but the strength of home healthcare bears more exploration.

Example of social listening for audience insights

As you can see, you can learn a fair amount just by looking at your data. It is unlikely that you'll find anything shocking, but there can be pockets of new information that can help you to plan better for the future.

If you are starting from scratch, this can be a bit challenging. There are ways to learn more about your target audience, which will be covered next.

Social Listening for Audience Keywords

There are two methods you can use to audit your competition. The first option is free, while the other requires a purchase. The one site that I find helpful for free search in Social Buzz. It searches the major platforms, plus some others, which are not as helpful to us.

 For example, you enter a keyword like small business digital marketing, and you will get a result. The site interface is great, but the best feature is the export function. You can download the data into an Excel or CSV file. 

If you have access to free text analytics software, then the next step is not too challenging. If you do not, then you will have to do the sorting and analysis by hand.

This is an example of the output using the keyword above using the free Lexalytics tool:

Example Word Cloud for Audience Insights

These emotions are not unexpected, as small businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic. There is a limit to what you can get for free, but at least you can see how hypotheses can be formed, which would have to be validated and tested. 

There are numerous paid sites that you can use for social listening, such as, BuzzSumo, HootSuite, and SproutSocial, for instance. They make the process much easier. These products are not inexpensive, and social listening can be a premium feature. Therefore, your purchase should depend on how often you require social listening information.

Finally, Evaluate Competitive Social Media Plans

Competitive analysis is always enlightening. As with social listening, there is a free and paid approach. You can repeat the keyword approach above using your competitor as the keyword. This way, you can see what others say about them and how they speak to their audience.

The paid approach is similar, except there is usually an upcharge for competitive reporting. The upcharge for competitive intelligence can range from $100-200 per month. This upcharge nearly, if not completely, doubles your monthly cost. Services know that this information is in high demand and can be very labor intensive to do manually. 

Importance of the content calendar when putting a social media marketing plan together

Content Calendar Outlines How to Put That Quality Content into Action.

We've covered objectives, goals, targets, and insights. Now, let's explain how to develop these ideas in the long term. A content calendar is how a business turns that knowledge into quality content and sets a specific time to post. Most use a content calendar for content marketing. 

There are two main things to consider when developing a content calendar: the types of content and social channels. It helps to have a mix of original and curated content.

Hootsuite recommends a technique called the 80-20 rule. 

"Use 80% of your high quality content to inform, educate, or entertain your audience. Use the other 20% [of your blog posts] to promote your brand or sell your products."   

This is a helpful guide, but each audience is a little different about how sensitive it is to marketing messaging. It's a great place to start but be prepared to pivot if the results are what you expect.

When it comes to the media mix, the answer is not always obvious. For example, based on our media consumption patterns, it would be a mistake for us to treat all the channels as the same, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for instance. The data are clear that each channel has a slightly different audience segment. Therefore, we need a social media calendar that considers those differences.  

Implementing Your Social Media Content Calendar

A Post Without an Image is a Wasted Effort

Visual to Show the Time to Understand Images vs. Text

Twitter itself says, "The single simplest thing you can do to get more attention to your Tweets is to add an image or GIF.

Infographic to show the impact of images on retention, click-through rates, traffic, and shares

This may seem challenging for people who are artistically gifted, but the effort is worth the return.

You can't fake it 'til you make it

Social media is intrinsically designed for relationship building. Your social profile is your brand persona. As part of an older generation, this was a concept I had to learn.

Transactional is not the approach to take. Being real is part of the sale, as this survey from Stackly points out:

"86% of consumers say authenticity influences which brands they like and support." 

This is what makes social media marketing challenging for many. 

Manage the volume

This quote from Hootsuite captures the essence of this subtopic on volume.

"Social media is not a broadcasting system—it's a way to engage with customers and fans." -Hootsuite

A broadcasting system is simple and easy. It is just one message unidirectionally distributed through multiple channels. Unfortunately, it makes your business one-dimensional, which comes off as unauthentic. 

It is not easy to ensure that each post adds value. If a post lacks value, you may lose readership. This is the most time-consuming part of social campaigns. 

A plan will succeed if someone ensures that the business can manage the volume well. There are resources available that are worth considering when building that plan.

Measurement is key to understanding what your target audience is saying

Measuring is a Way to Hear What Your Audience is Saying

Your audience is constantly providing feedback. But, this requires a process to measure and monitor that feedback. This is the main purpose of social media metrics, and why an analytics tool is very useful. 

Without a means of collecting this data, the feedback is lost. People do not tend to maintain relationships with people who do not listen to them. This is the baseline.

To get more sophisticated, version testing, otherwise known as A/B testing, and other social media analytics help understand and fine-tune the content and refine your strategy.


The key thing to remember is that no matter your business's size, social media marketing can help you reach and connect with existing and potential customers. It can help build awareness and foster relationships. However, it does come with a cost, which you can minimize by:

  1. Setting SMART goals: When it comes to social, it is the achievable part of SMART that really comes to bear. It is vital to ensure that you have the resources and skills to achieve your goals.
  2. Create Quality Content: It is worth the time and effort to understand your target audience and what motivates them. Without quality content, social media marketing will not be effective.
  3. Content Calendar is Key: It is necessary for two reasons. First, it ensures you have the right content and media mix. Second, it helps to estimate the effort required to manage the volume.
  4. Smart Implementation: It is critical to use images, has a measurement plan in place, and have a means in place to ensure the conversation is not unidirectional.

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About the Author

Brian Cairns, CEO of Prostrategix Consulting. Over 25 years of business experience as a corporate executive, entrepreneur, and small business owner. For more information, please visit my LinkenIn profile

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